Launched!

A joint post by Finola and Robert

Mingling

Hallowe’en (All Hallows – Samhain) was the perfect day to launch our Prehistoric Rock Art Exhibition at the Cork Public Museum. As Finola said in her remarks at the opening, it’s a time when the veil between two worlds is at its thinnest: in this case, it’s the veil between an ancient time and the present day. We hope the exhibition emphasises the work of our distant ancestors who have inscribed the landscape and given us the enigma that is Rock Art.

Blank Canvass

Almost there
Before the Exhibition – Robert contemplates the blank canvas (top) and installation work in progress (below)

As our regular readers will know, the exhibition has been a very successful collaborative effort: Finola and Robert (providing drawings, explanations and the overall design); Keith Payne, a West Cork painter whose work is inspired by ancient art; Ken Williams, the excellent photographer of megaliths and monuments; the staff of Cork Public Museum, including intern Clare Busher O’Sullivan who came up with the idea and Dan Breen, Assistant Curator and his team, who made sure it all happened.

The Team

The Core Team: Clare Busher O’Sullivan, Ken Williams, Keith Payne, Finola Finlay, Robert Harris and Dan Breen

After some intensive days, on site and off, it has all come together and was launched yesterday. It was a grand launch: Firstly, William O’Brien – Professor of Archaeology at UCC – outlined a history of rock art studies and research which started back in the nineteenth century. He mentioned a predecessor in the department – Professor Michael J O’Kelly – who was born exactly 100 years ago and is best known for his excavations and restoration work at Newgrange, the Boyne Valley passage tomb: Finola worked on those excavations and it was Professor O’Kelly who suggested that she should carry out the research on rock art in Cork and Kerry which led to her Master’s thesis on the subject in 1973 – and, 42 years later, to the undertaking of this exhibition.

Professor Michael J O’Kelly (left) was renowned for his work at Newgrange (right)

Next up was Finola, who told us more about her expeditions back in the early 1970s. In those days when the boreens of rural Ireland were mostly populated by donkey carts her own travel was by means of her brother’s Honda 50 motorcycle, and we pictured her loaded down with compass, tapes, chains, chalk and tracing paper – a recording methodology now completely out of favour. But the result was a set of beautiful monochrome illustrations that form the core of the exhibition.

Coomasaharn

Rock Art: a detail of the picking technique (top left), and Finola’s drawings from 1973

In our modern days non-invasive recording methods have to be used: Ken Williams has developed a very effective method of photography using slave flash units to provide low angle lighting over the carved rocks, which brings the maximum level of detail out of the panels. The exhibition contains many fine examples of Ken’s work in this field.

Ken Williams in action: at the Bohonagh stone circle (left) and in the Derrynablaha townland, Kerry (right)

Finola also talked about Keith Payne’s work. He produces large and visually striking paintings based on particular rock art motifs. Two of these artworks are in the exhibition and will inevitably draw the eye, providing a good and colourful counterpart to Finola’s drawings.

Keith Payne at the hanging (left) and at the launch, in front of the remarkable Derreennaclogh stone (right)

The official launch was in the capable hands of Ann Lynch, now Chief Archaeologist at the Irish National Monuments Office. Ann and Finola were fellow students at UCC. Ann outlined the work of her department in recording Ireland’s monuments – and the difficulties involved in pursuing the preservation and protection of these monuments, including Rock Art – before formally declaring the exhibition open.

Ann declares it open

Ann Lynch, Chief Archaeologist at the National Monuments Office, declares the Exhibition open

Noteworthy exhibits include one piece of Rock Art – the Bluid Stone from County Cork – which is in the safe keeping of the Museum, and will remain on permanent display after the exhibition closes at the end of February next year. The Museum also houses an example of passage grave art from Cape Clear island (prominent in our own view from Nead an Iolair).

Tired

Fine Detail: the Bluid Stone under close inspection

Other exhibits include Ken’s superb photo of the iconic stone at Derrynablaha, Co Kerry, in its panoramic setting of a Neolithic landscape. This occupies the whole of the end wall – and is simply beautiful.

Gazing

Visitors are surprised to see much of the floorspace taken up with a 70% life-sized image of the stone at Derreennaclogh: some hesitate to walk over it, but the printing is on hard-wearing vinyl, so feel free. The idea is to give you the feel of what it’s like to discover and explore the Rock Art out in the field. We have to mention how impressed we have been with the printing work carried out by Hacketts of Cork in the preparation of the exhibition – in particular, we were fascinated to watch the professionalism of their installation of the large items.

Yes – that floor can be walked on!

The timescale is set admirably by Alex Lee’s ‘Neolithic Settlement’ on the approach to the exhibition room. It’s well worth studying closely all the artefacts set out in this, and imagining what life must have been like for our artist ancestors in Ireland four or five thousand years ago.

Alex

Alex Lee at work on the Neolithic Settlement

We were delighted by how many of our friends from West Cork and beyond attended the opening, and gave us positive feedback. If you go during the next four months, please sign the visitors’ book. We are so grateful to our friends Amanda and Peter Clarke for being so supportive throughout – and for taking most of these photographs of the event: very many thanks.

Earnest discussions (left) and one of Ken’s superb photographs (right)

Our own day was rounded off by a visit to the Shandon Dragon festival, which processed through the centre of Cork in the evening – another unmissable event which reminds us of ancient times and long-held beliefs…

Shandon Dragon

Hallowe’en: The Shandon Dragon Procession makes its way through Cork City

Rock Art Exhibition – at the Cork Public Museum!

Rock Art from West Cork, Mount Gabriel in the background

Rock Art from West Cork, Mount Gabriel in the background

The Cork Public Museum has invited us to mount a Rock Art Exhibition and YOU are invited. Readers will remember the one we did last year in Ballydehob. Well, this one will be bigger and more comprehensive.

Ken and Robert photographing the Bohonagh Equinox Sunset

Ken and Robert photographing the Bohonagh Equinox Sunset

First of all, this time we have two partners. Ken Williams will be familiar to readers of this Journal – we profiled him in the post Shadows and Stone in Action, and he, and his photographs, figured largely in our famous Derrynablaha Expedition post. Ken is probably the foremost photographer of prehistoric monuments in Ireland, and certainly of prehistoric art. His website, Shadows and Stone is an invaluable resource of both images and information. He was recently profiled in The Irish Times Magazine – a wonderful two page spread.

Ken at work, Derrynablaha

Ken at work, Derrynablaha

Keith Payne has lived, painted and exhibited all over the world, including running his own gallery in France, but now he lives in West Cork.  He spent years travelling with the Rolling Stones creating stage sculptures and backdrops for their shows. 

Keith Payne

Keith has always been inspired by prehistoric art – cave paintings, aboriginal rock paintings, and all forms of petroglyphs. The paintings he has contributed to the exhibition are based on West Cork rock art pieces but the form, and the amazing colours, are all his own. We are thrilled that he is participating.

One of Keith's images inspired by cave Paintings

One of Keith’s images inspired by cave paintings

Besides Ken’s photographs and Keith’s paintings, the exhibition will include many of my rock art drawings and some of Robert’s more recent ones. There will also be ‘real’ rock art on display – an unusual stone from Bluid, near Castletownshend, and of course the Cape Clear Stone, which is on permanent exhibit in the Museum. It’s an example of passage grave art rather than rock art, but the comparisons are fascinating and important. A ten minute walk away, at University College Cork, are two further examples of rock art, one from County Cork and one from County Waterford.

Thi spiece of rock art is on display at University College Cork, a ten minute walk from the Museum

This piece of rock art is on display at University College Cork, a ten minute walk from the Museum

The Grand Opening will be at 2PM on Saturday October 31st. Please come if you can and say hello. But if you can’t make it, the exhibition will run until February 2016, so we hope you can drop by.

Exhibition Poster

Our Rock Art Exhibition!

A joint post by Robert and Finola…

Derrynablaha A2.PC9

For all of you who are fortunate enough to live within reach of our beautiful part of West Cork we are pleased to invite you to our exhibition, which is being shown as part of the Ballydehob Art and Culture Weekend, running from 17th to 19th October. The exhibition is being held in the West Cork Gourmet Store (go left at the statue of Danno and it’s just up on the right, behind the Post Office), and it will continue to run there during opening hours for the two weeks after the Art and Culture event.

Finola studied for her Archaeology degree at the University of Cork, and her thesis was written on the Rock Art of Cork and Kerry. For her research – in the early 1970s – she travelled across the two counties on a borrowed Honda 50, visiting every piece of Rock Art known at the time, and recording each piece using a tracing technique which would not be allowed today. The thesis is a unique and valuable archive of the rock carvings, which date back anything from three to five thousand years. We believe that this is the first time a comprehensive exhibition of Irish Rock Art has been shown.

knockdrum detail.PC9

Regular readers of Roaringwater Journal know that we are still working on Rock Art: Robert has recorded some more recently found examples using a ‘non-invasive’ technique, and we are involved with CRAG – the Cork Rock Art Group – under the aegis of the University, where our aim is to produce a website which lists and illustrates all known examples of Rock Art in the west of Ireland. Eventually the work may extend further afield: there are Rock Art sites elsewhere in the Republic. Similar carvings are found on the Atlantic coast, from Scandinavia down to Iberia.

Finola, Gary and companion study the Art

Finola, Gary and companion study the Art

On Saturday 18th October the exhibition will be formally opened at 4pm, and we will be giving a talk on the subject and on our adventures studying it. Some refreshments will be on hand: please come if you can!

Title poster.PC9